The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Federal Council starts EU negotiations under difficult circumstances

Almost three years after the failure of the framework agreement, the Federal Council wants to make a new attempt at negotiations with the EU. It senses broad support. However, in addition to the SVP, the trade unions are still opposed - a difficult starting position.

Negotiations with Brussels are expected to resume in March. In May 2021, the Federal Council broke off negotiations on a framework agreement with Brussels. After seven years of negotiations, there was no prospect of success, it was said at the time.

Now the Federal Council is spreading a spirit of optimism. In the consultations on the negotiating mandate, a large majority of the stakeholders surveyed expressed a positive view of the package approach for the negotiations, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told the media in Bern on Friday.

The Federal Council has adopted a large part of the recommendations from the hearings and adapted its draft mandate from December. This means that the negotiations have a solid political basis. At the same time, it has retained room for maneuver vis-à-vis the EU.

Trade unions refuse consent

However, if you read various statements on the restart of the negotiations, they start under a bad star. In addition to the SVP, which continues to reject any rapprochement with the EU, the trade unions are also critical or even hostile.

The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB) fears "a painful deterioration in wage protection" as a result of the Federal Council's decision. For the SGB, the path taken by the Federal Council is "not viable".

However, for the outcome of the negotiations with the EU to be capable of gaining a majority in domestic politics, it needs the support of the social partners. This solidarity is currently not in sight with the announced veto by the trade unions.

"Otherwise we have a problem"

Cassis did not want to comment on the criticism from the trade unions on Friday. He merely said that Switzerland would not be able to achieve all of the negotiation objectives in terms of foreign policy. "That's why we have to find accompanying domestic policy measures." At the end, the Federal Council, Parliament and the people would take stock.

The federal government will not exert any pressure on the employers' and employees' associations, said State Secretary Helene Budliger Artieda. The federal government has a moderating role. "It would be wrong for us to start exerting pressure on the social partners."

In the end, the Federal Council wants to arrive with a package from Brussels and from the domestic policy negotiations at the same time. Cassis said that the accompanying domestic policy measures must be compatible with the EU. "Otherwise we have a problem."


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